Babies seriously injured during birth can face a lifetime of challenges including varying levels of brain damage and/or paralysis, seizure disorders, motor skill disorders, hearing loss or deafness, and sight impairment. While some injuries to newborns occur naturally during birth and are unavoidable, others are caused by trauma that could have been prevented. Most notably, doctors who misuse common obstetrics tools like forceps or vacuum extractors can do significant damage to a newborn.
Forceps are often a necessary tool during childbirth. The curved metal tongs are designed to grasp the head of the baby, allowing the doctor to ease its body down the birth canal. However, using forceps does come with considerable risks to both the mother and child. In addition to relatively minor cosmetic injuries such as scratches and bruises to the head and shoulders, babies can also suffer nerve damage to the brachial plexus. The injury, known as Erb’s palsy, often leads to partial or full paralysis. Sometimes doctors can repair brachial plexus injuries in newborns with surgery, but other times they cannot.
Vacuum extractor injuries
Doctors may also elect to use vacuum extractors to assist with birth, a method that is associated with certain trauma risks, especially when misused. All vacuum extractors attach to babies’ heads using suction; the cups of extractors can either injure the scalp or neck, or become detached. Complications from improper vacuum extractor use can lead to serious newborn injuries such as hemorrhaging between the scalp and the skull.
Dr. Michael M. Wilson is an attorney and a physician who earned his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his legal and medical degrees from Georgetown University. He has focused in the area of medical malpractice for more than three decades and secured more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf of clients throughout the country. He is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and New York as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is listed in America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.